Good Wednesday morning!
Ed note: The Daily Kickoff will be on vacation for the remainder of the week. We’ll still be publishing on JewishInsider.com as warranted by the news cycle.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency will deliver more than $12 million in vital grants to 138 high-risk nonprofit organizations in the New York City area through the Nonprofit Security Grant Program to enhance security measures, a FEMA official tells JI.
In New Jersey, The Associated Press has declared Amy Kennedy the winner of the Democratic primary in the 2nd district; she will face Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R-NJ) in November. In the 8th district, AP called the race for incumbent Rep. Albio Sires (D-NJ). In the 3rd district Republican primary, David Richter appears to have beaten Kate Gibbs for the chance to take on Rep. Andy Kim (D-NJ), while in the 5th, Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) is predicted to have easily fended off a primary challenge from Arati Kreibich.
Israel’s outgoing ambassador to the U.N. Danny Danonsuggested yesterday that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is determined to move ahead with his plan to annex parts of the West Bank irrespective of global pressure or COVID-19.
Reacting to a recent letter sent by a dozen members of Congress threatening to condition military aid to Israel if the government moves ahead with annexation, Danon said, “I would advise our friends and allies, Don’t threaten Israel. You have concerns? Speak to us. You can have concerns, you can criticize, but don’t [issue] threats.”
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Alaska Senate candidate Al Gross hopes his outsider status will propel him to D.C.
Al Gross is an ideal Senate candidate — at least by Alaskan standards. The 57-year-old former orthopedic surgeon and commercial fisherman is running in the state’s Democratic primary on August 18 as an independent. Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel spoke to Gross about his campaign and what it was like growing up Jewish in the Last Frontier.
Face off: Gross is battling it out for the chance to challenge first-term Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan in November. The nonpartisan Cook Political Report recently upgraded the race from “solid” to “likely Republican,” giving the Democrats a glimmer of hope as the party attempts to flip the Senate in November. In the primary, Gross is competing against Democrat Edgar Blatchford, a former Alaskan mayor and a journalism professor; another independent, Chris Cumings, who previously ran for Alaska’s House at-large seat in 2018, garnering only 8% of the vote in the Democratic primary; and an Alaskan Independence candidate, John Howe.
Legacy: Gross is confident that he can defy the odds and oust Sullivan this cycle, pointing out that Alaskan voters have a strong tendency to favor independent candidates. The Alaskan-born candidate’s father, Avrum Gross, was a Democratic attorney general who served under Alaskan Gov. Jay Hammond, a Republican who represented the state from 1974 to 1982 and whom Gross described as a “role model and a friend” during his formative years. “That relationship and friendship is why I registered as an independent when I was 18,” Gross told JI in an interview, “because it was always about working together for the betterment of the state.”
Outsider: Gross, who is Jewish, has long felt like an outsider in a state that takes pride in them. His bar mitzvah, he said, was the first ever in southeast Alaska — his parents flew in a rabbi for the ceremony — and there were only a few Jewish kids in his Juneau high school. “I’ve been a minority, and that’s what I’ve known since I was a young kid,” he said. “We joke that we’re the ‘frozen chosen’ and the ‘extreme diaspora’ up here.” If elected, Gross would be the second Jewish senator from Alaska in a state that has only had eight senators since it achieved statehood in 1959. The first was Ernest Gruening, who served from 1959 to 1969.
Eye on Israel: After graduating from high school, Gross spent four months in Israel, three of them volunteering on a kibbutz. “Spending those four months in Israel really had a profound effect on me,” Gross said, “coming from the biggest state in the country to one of the smallest countries in the world and seeing and understanding the security concerns of Israel.” Gross supports a two-state solution, arguing that President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have taken a unilateral approach that he sees as ineffective. “It’s critical that the Palestinians be part of that discussion.”
Untangling the myths and mysteries surrounding George Soros
If you believe the many conspiracy theories, George Soros is a very busy man. But how much is fact and how much is fiction when it comes to the billionaire philanthropist’s activities? Emily Tamkin, author of the new book The Influence Of Soros: Politics, Power, And The Struggle For An Open Society, spoke to Jewish Insider’s Amy Spiro about how the 89-year-old Soros has become such a divisive figure.
Immense power: Tamkin, the U.S. editor for The New Statesman, traces the arc of Soros’s life and career as a hedge funder, currency trader, philanthropist and social activist. Along the way, she wrestles with the idea that Soros’s immense power and influence have enabled him to have an outsized voice in many countries, movements and debates — directly contradicting the core tenet of the “open society” he promotes. He has, by Tamkin’s account, poured over $32 billion — more than the GDP of dozens of countries — towards promoting his ideals around the globe.
Conspiracies: Even since Tamkin began working on the book in early 2019, the conspiracies surrounding Soros have continued to pile up. “In the past two months, as we’re gearing up for publication, all of a sudden you have that Soros is somehow profiting from COVID-19, that Soros is behind the Black Lives Matters protests,” the author told Jewish Insider in a recent interview. “There’s always some new conspiracy theory, but what I will say is that, though they are new, there are strains of the familiar in them.”
Ancient hatred: Tamkin also outlines the antisemitism Soros has faced throughout his life, from his youth in Hungary during the Nazi occupation to the campaigns waged against him everywhere from Slovakia to Malaysia, Turkey and — after he poured money into the 2004 election in an effort to defeat President George Bush — the United States. “The antisemitism I think is pretty universal,” Tamkin told JI. “I think part of the reason the conspiracy theories work so well and are so effective is because he’s Jewish…. I think it’s very hard to disentangle the antisemitism from these conspiracy theories because they prey on people’s preexisting prejudices.”
Even in Israel: Soros, who has given small sums to left-wing Israeli and pro-Palestinian groups, including J Street and the New Israel Fund, has been harshlycritical of Israeli activity. That has fueled attacks and sometimes conspiracy theories from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli government officials. Tamkin is careful to note that Netanyahu’s support of Soros-bashing does not mean the conspiracy theories are not antisemitic. “When someone like Netanyahu gives the green light to [Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor] Orban to use antisemitic conspiracy theories, it basically says that there’s one understanding of how you can be a Jewish person,” she told JI. “And if you’re not that, then we can use this language against you and not feel like it’s our responsibility.”
The New York Jewish Week to cease print publication
After more than 40 years as a primary source for Jewish news in New York City, The New York Jewish Week, a newspaper long savored in observant homes on Shabbat, is ceasing print circulation on July 31 and has laid off most of its staff, Jewish Insider’s Debra Nussbaum Cohen reports.
Why now? “It’s no surprise that a print newspaper in 2020, facing the triple threat of declining circulation, declining advertising and, in the Jewish world, declining interest in Jewish engagement,” is moving to digital only, the publication’s editor-in-chief, Andrew Silow-Carroll, told JI in an interview.
What’s next? Silow-Carroll told JI he hopes to make The Jewish Week a more inclusive publication than it has been in the past. “I am trying to re-think what a Jewish paper can be in a New York Jewish community that’s really changing,” he said. When you think of a New York Jew, “you don’t necessarily picture a Jew of color or a gay Jew or a woman. We have to reflect the entire community, and not just the large and influential Orthodox community. I want to make sure we have the right balance of male and female opinion bylines, and constantly ask the question ‘who’s not being included?’”
Driving the convo
Beinart sours on two states; Gordis reacts
Jewish Currents editor-at-large Peter Beinart suggests in a new column that it’s time for liberal Zionists to abandon their belief in a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and embrace an approach that would grant Israelis and Palestinians equal rights in their respective societies. “The traditional two-state solution no longer offers a compelling alternative to Israel’s current path. It risks becoming, instead, a way of camouflaging and enabling that path. It is time for liberal Zionists to abandon the goal of Jewish–Palestinian separation and embrace the goal of Jewish–Palestinian equality.”
Time for a conversation: Beinart told Jewish Insider’s Jacob Kornbluh that he wants to kick off an honest conversation about Palestinian equality “with other Jews of a whole variety of different perspectives, because I believe that ultimately we’re one people and we’re one extended family — and I’m part of that extended family.” A great deal of the conversation that exists today about Palestinians among Jews, Beinart said, “is based on Palestinian dehumanization, not truly recognizing Palestinians as equal human beings. The more time that Jews actually spend reading books by Palestinians, interacting as equals with Palestinians, the more able we are to see that Palestinian equality doesn’t represent an existential threat to Jewish life in the land of Israel.”
View of Zionism: Beinart said he decided to write the essay because in his view, “Zionism has become synonymous for many people with the idea of a Jewish state.” According to Beinart, the founding fathers of Zionism including Theodor Herzl and Ze’ev Jabotinsky “were thinking about a Jewish society that could be self-governing, but not a Jewish state, necessarily. What I argue in my piece is that what we need is a thriving Jewish society in the land of Israel that can enrich the whole Jewish world and that can be a refuge for Jews in distress, but that that can be achieved without a state that denies Palestinians equality.”
Rebuttal: Scholar and author Daniel Gordis tells JI, “To read Peter Beinart’s Twitter feed over the past day is to (almost) get the sense that the publication of his [column] is an occasion of great intellectual moment, a breakthrough in Zionist thinking that might renew American-Jewish enthusiasm for a new, more moral Jewish project in Palestine. It is, of course, nothing of the sort. In almost 8,000 words, Beinart strings together an astonishing array of sleights of hand and misrepresentations that makes ‘Yavne’ little more than a screed that is an insult to the intelligence of his readers. Beinart is a smart guy; he knows that for his readers to buy his thesis, it is important that they not know very much. Luckily for him, that is a safe bet.”
Priorities: According to Gordis, “What Beinart does know is that the revitalization of Jewish life that is Israel’s hallmark would end with his proposal. Jews would quickly become a minority here, just as they were in Europe. They would be surrounded by hostile masses, just as they were in Europe, and even if none of that ever ended in annihilation, it would certainly (and rapidly) destroy the Jewish confidence that has been at the core of Judaism’s revitalization in Israel. In other words, Beinart cares more about the future of the Palestinians than he does about the future of Judaism’s richness. That’s his right, but he ought to admit that.”
Viewpoint: “Ultimately, what Beinart’s suggestion (that we give up on Jewish statehood) shows is how much more American are his instincts than Jewish,” Gordis asserted.
Read more here.
Reactions: Beinart’s column elicited a range of reactions on social media, including J Street’s Jeremy Ben Ami defending the push for two states, JTA’s Ron Kampeas challenging a few assumptions in the first paragraph and Tablet’s Armin Rosen who noted that, if Beinart is calling for the country’s non-existence even before they annex anything, then this won’t exactly discourage the Israelis from going ahead with annexation.
😠 PPP Pique: David Graham writes in The Atlantic about the backlash to the publication of companies that received funds from the Paycheck Protection Program. “Raging at the wealthy receiving these funds… misses the point,” he said. “While CARES was not without flaws, every indication is it helped the sagging economy — just as intended.” [TheAtlantic]
⚔️ Culture Clash:Daily Beast columnist Matt Lewis posits that the left has “won the culture war” thanks to Trump’s “nastiness and belligerence” which has turned off otherwise apolitical people. [DailyBeast]
📃 List of Demands: Washington Post columnist Greg Sargent spotlights a push by a coalition of progressive foreign policy groups — including J Street and Justice Dems — to urge presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden to disqualify individuals for White House appointments if they opposed the Iran deal or support Israeli settlements. [WashPost]
Around the Web
🤔 Drawing Comparisons: Jamaal Bowman, the projected Democratic congressional primary winner in New York’s 16th district, said in a TV interview that if Trump is reelected “we’re gonna have a Hitler Germany situation on our hands.”
😡 No Go: Leaders of a pressure campaign to convince advertisers to boycott Facebook left disappointed from a meeting with Mark Zuckerberg yesterday, with ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt saying the groups “didn’t get commitments or timeframes or clear outcomes.”
📵 Not Enough: Facebook’s own team of auditors issued a public report today saying that the company’s “approach to civil rights remains too reactive and piecemeal.”
📱 Oops, Sorry: Philadelphia Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson apologized after posting a fake Hitler quote on Instagram, saying he shouldn’t have shared the “insensitive and ill-informed posts.” The Eagles condemned Jackson’s posts and said the team would “take appropriate action.”
🏦 Settlement: Deutsche Bank will pay $150 million to settle charges that it ignored suspicious activities in the accounts of convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
✍️ Signing On: A list of prominent media figures including Noam Chomsky, David Frum, Bari Weiss and Jonathan Haidt signed a letter to the editor of Harper’s criticizing the “intolerant climate” and “public shaming” that is creating a “stifling atmosphere.”
⚖️ Justice: German prosecutors are calling for a three-year sentence for Bruno Dey, a 93-year-old former SS Nazi camp guard.
👋 Shaky Ground: Israel’s public health director quit yesterday and slammed the government for losing its footing in countering COVID-19 and canceling out its early successes.
🏠 Stay Home: Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz will enter quarantine after being exposed to a confirmed coronavirus patient.
💰 Delay: Israel has again pushed off the creation of a sovereign wealth fund based on natural gas tax revenue because it hasn’t made enough money yet.
💪 Holding On: Quicken Loans founder Dan Gilbert will retain tight control of the company even after its IPO.
🤔 To-Do List: A coalition of Jewish nonprofits led by Repair the World is launching a nationwide, yearlong volunteer drive called “Serve the Moment.”
👎 Wonder Woman:Vulturereports that Gal Gadot implored Quibi founder Jeffrey Katzenberg to elevate women’s voices, and was disheartened when he suggested she lead a series of workout videos.
📺 Hollywood:“Unorthodox” star Shira Haas spoke toVariety’s Marc Malkin about her newfound global fame and her hopes for a second season of the Netflix show.
🇬🇧 Across the Pond: Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner is stepping down as senior rabbi of the U.K.’s Reform movement after nine years.
Song of the Day
The new music video for “Alien,” the latest song by Dennis Lloyd aka Nir Tibor, was filmed at Mitzpe Ramon, which the artist called “one of my favorite places on Earth.”
Washington D.C. bureau chief of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Ron Kampeas turns 60…
Emmy Award-winning singer, Steve Lawrence turns 85… Retired executive director of the Baltimore Jewish Council, Arthur “Art” Abramson turns 72… Former Democratic candidate for president of the U.S., Marianne Deborah Williamson turns 68… Former member of the Michigan State House of Representatives, Vicki Barnett turns 66… Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate in Texas (2006) and for State Attorney General in Texas (2010), Barbara Ann Radnofsky turns 64… Former United States ambassador to Belgium, Howard Gutman turns 64… Former attorney general of Georgia, he became the first Jewish person in Georgia to win statewide office, Samuel Scott Olens turns 63… Former member of Knesset who had served as Israel’s foreign minister, justice minister, agriculture minister and housing minister, Tzipi Livni turns 62… Rabbi at Temple Emanuel in Beaumont, Texas, Rabbi Joshua S. Taub turns 62…
Co-president of Rochester, New York-based Hahn Automotive Warehouse, and recent campaign chair for the Jewish Federation of Greater Rochester, Eli N. Futerman turns 62… Chief operating officer of Foundation for Jewish Camp, Marina W. Lewin turns 62… Managing principal at Albright Stonebridge Group, Dan K. Rosenthal turns 54… Former ice hockey player, her son was the first overall pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, Ellen Weinberg-Hughes turns 52… Higher education reporter for The Wall Street Journal, Douglas Belkin turns 52 (h/t Playbook)… Managing director in the Baltimore office of Harbor Group International, Meir Raskas turns 50… Atlanta-based educator, activist and writer, Robbie Medwed turns 39… Corporate associate in the San Francisco office of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, Alon Sachar turns 36… Policy director at Biden for President, Stefanie Feldman turns 32… Foreign affairs correspondent at the Israeli public broadcasting corporation, Amichai Stein…